Luviri Primary School in Malawi is a TDC (Teachers’ Development Centre) school which means it is a place where all the teachers from the 10 schools in the region meet to discuss and learn from each other. Being a TDC school means it is also a good place for teachers to discuss how to raise awareness about the benefits of solar lighting for students and parents, and for the teachers of rural schools to bring solar products back to their villages, and SolarAid’s social enterprise SunnyMoney has worked together with the school since 2012.
Charity Menderson Mgunta is an Education Advisor at the school, “We had a meeting where we were looking at the performance of primary schools taking the exams. They have not been good. The pass rate was good, but the selection from schools was not good. The solar means they can have night studies. Otherwise, they only have some lights that are dim and it can damage their vision.“
Luviri Primary School installed solar lights one year ago, this helps students who are not able to afford a light to come to the school in the evening to be able to study by safe, clean light. “There has been a difference because for 4 years we have had children who have not been sent to the boarding school, but this year they have produced one. They are promising that next year they want to have almost 5!”, says Charity.
Lucius K Mandah has worked as a teacher at the school for 2 years. He holds night time classes for students without light at home. The problem is that many students live far away he says, “Some live about 30 minutes away. So if we have half past 8 finish studies, it means they get home at 9 o’clock which is very late. Some are scared.”
Nicolas Melinda, started as a teacher and solar light agent at the school 2 months ago and he is already seeing how the solar lights are benefiting the students, “Those who have these solar lamps, they use them for the studies. So, when they have them it helps them improve their performance. So we even encourage them to do as much as possible to find the money so that they can acquire a lantern for their studies.” Lucius agrees, “Obviously there is a great improvement with those who come to study just because they have the books more frequently. Those who don’t have the access to light, it means they study less. So there is great improvement with those who come to studies. I also have the light at home from Sunny Money. I have children at home who are 7 and 14 and they use the light, I have had it for 2 years.”
Not having light to study by in the evening not only affects study results in a negative way, it can be directly dangerous. Many families living without electricity are forced turn to dangerous or toxic alternatives of lighting, such as kerosene lamps or candles. These causes many accidents in the homes, not the least, when children are trying to study. Charity, who lives in a small brick house just next to school agrees, “Before I used to use candle light, a small light. It is dangerous. When you put it out, you can have an accident. Now, I have a small one and a big [solar light]. And I have given my parents at home.” Nicolas, who also used to use candles for lighting in the evening brings in the economic aspect as well, “We spend less using solar lights. When you use candles, you have to spend every day. Also, with solar, you can charge a mobile phone.“
Charity says her big dream for the future is that all schools in the region will now have access to solar light. Education is a stepping stone out of poverty, through working together with teachers we are able to get clean, safe light for children to study by.